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The key thing you're missing between the free hypervisor and the full suit is Virtual Center - this is THE key management component for VMware hypervisors.
What I'd suggest is that you download the full hypervisor, not the free one, and run it in evaluation mode. This gives you a 60-day trial of all of the features. Similarly, install the Virtual Center server somewhere - perhaps spin it up as a VM on your Hyper-V lab at home. If you've got enough memory, you can spin up multiple virtual ESXi instances so that you can build a virtual cluster and experiment with vMotion and DRS.
If you google for "ESXi home lab" you'll find a lot of references of how people have built a home lab for their own certification training.
You may want to pick up Scott Lowe's Mastering VMware vSphere 5 book if you can afford it.
Thanks for the reply Ed. That's a very good point... I wish VMware had a program like MS Technet where engineers like us could purchase the software inexpensively (or use it for free) in a lab environment to become familiar with it so we could push it as a solution and be in a better position to support it. I'd convert my Hyper-V setup to VMWare but if I can't use VCenter unless I do the 60 day trial I'm sort of locking myself in a corner where in 60 days I'll be SOL.. so that's not really an option.
You're saying I could spin up ESXi instances as Hyper-V VMs and run VCenter as well? I didn't think you could run a hypervisor host as a VM, but if you can that might be an ideal situation. I'm running an Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4Ghz CPU with 16GB RAM and a 4TB RAID 5 setup..
Can you convert VMs from VMWare back to MS-Hyper-V VHDs? I'm thinking also as an option that maybe I can migrate to VMware for 60 days, then migrate back before the trial ends.
My friends are telling me to learn on v5 and not v4 as I was planning to give me an edge in the interview process.. so trying to figure out the best way to make this all work.
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